These Studies Tried To Determine How Many Licks To The Center Of A Tootsie Pop

"How many licks does it take to get to the Tootsie Roll center of a Tootsie Pop?" It's an age-old question posed by the curious child in Tootsie Roll's iconic commercial. Unfortunately, Mr. Cow, Mr. Fox, and Mr. Turtle are all unable to get to the center without biting into the hard, outer sucker. Even Mr. Owl, the wise-guy who claims it's only three, cheats by chomping in. Sadly, our child protagonist didn't think to find out for himself, either. Here we are, five decades later, still wondering. As the narrator of the ad said, "The world may never know." Or will we?

Tootsie Pops are a classic candy, even if some consider the things old-fashioned and frustrating, so it's no wonder that not everybody has the patience to lick all the way to the chocolate center. Talking animals may be ridiculous, but biting isn't. This problem is an old one: According to Snack History, candy-company employee, Luke Weisgram, came up with the idea for this sweet treat back in 1931, having licked a lollipop while eating a Tootsie Roll. We're willing to bet people were cutting to the chase back then, too. 

If anybody did have the patience to lick all the way to the center, how long would it have taken them? And how long might it take you if you snack on a Tootsie Pop today?

Here's what the experts are saying

What better way to satiate curiosity than the scientific method? According to Tootsie, a small handful of scholastic studies have been conducted on the matter. One of these was merely, yet charmingly, led by students at Swarthmore Junior High School. These kids found, on average, it takes 144 licks to reach the Tootsie Roll center of a Tootsie Pop. It seems that youth helps get you there faster — big surprise, children love candy — because the three University studies that have been conducted all had higher results.

At the University of Michigan, a grad school student getting his doctorate in chemical engineering utilized a "licking machine," a technology made to replicate the human tongue. He found it took 411 licks to reach the Tootsie Roll center. Meanwhile, over at Purdue University, engineering majors employed both a licking machine and their own mouths to do research. Their results? On average, 364 licks for the machine, and 252 licks for humans (via Tootsie). Apparently, young adults are slower than teens, and robots are slower than people.

Bellarmine University wasn't satisfied with these answers, though, and ran their own experiment, hoping to avoid the pitfalls of bad methodology and poor controls. Accounting for flavor, gender, and the time of day, they concluded it takes 175 licks — closer to the junior high schoolers, but still more. Interestingly, flavor, hunger, and even gender seemed to affect individual results.

There you have it: The definitive(ish) answer is between 144 and 411 licks.